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Meyer Sound Captures Contemporary Quality for Cross Pointe Congregation
"It's not good enough any more to just be the best-sounding church," says Matt Card, VP of Client Development at Clark ProMedia in Alpharetta, Georgia. "Churches realize that if they want to be culturally relevant to the community they're trying to reach, they can't allow the experience in church to be below-par compared to what people experience in the rest of their lives. So churches all over the country are now demanding sonic integrity and quality as good as what you would find in a secular, professional concert environment. If that's your standard for choosing loudspeakers, then Meyer Sound is without peer."
Card has good reason to keep his finger on the pulse of the sound-for-worship sector. "We do some performing arts venues and some educational and municipal facilities," he says, "but 95 percent of our business is in the church market. And it's typically the churches that demand performance excellence." A case in point, Card says, is Cross Pointe, the Church at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia. The congregation recently opened a new worship center housed in a former Boeing plant, and Clark ProMedia was engaged to provide acoustic design as well as to design and install sound, multimedia, and theatrical lighting systems.
"The facility used to be a 407,000 square-foot missile production factory," Card says. "It included two large warehouse/production spaces that had 35-foot ceilings and a lot of open square footage, but also a lot of pillars and columns." It was one of these two factory buildings that was converted into the new worship center.
Designed by Atlanta architects Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart & Stewart, the new sanctuary holds about 1,700, using padded seats rather than pews. "The shell remained," Card says, "but they gutted the inside, re-bracing the structure so they could open up sight lines by removing all the support columns. Instead of creating big arches and steeples and stained glass, the idea was to create a space that was much more similar to a large, secular gathering-space such as a convention center. It's a very upscale, contemporary look. Cross Pointe's worship center is an organic extension of the church's personality: how they worship, how they teach."
The contemporary look fits the direction that Cross Pointe is taking with its services. "The heritage of the church," Card says, "was traditional Southern Baptist: hymns, piano, organ, things like that. But the desire of the church is to move to a much more contemporary style. So they actually run two services. The primary worship service is in a contemporary style, with drums, guitar, bass: rock and roll. Very progressive music. Then the church runs what they call a 'blended' service, which — while it's still led with drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards — also frequently has a choir, with many more traditional hymn-type performances."
To accommodate both types of services, Card says, "you could not design this as a full-on rock-and-roll hall. It had to be designed to support a very progressive, low-frequency-driven style, but also to incorporate a more airy, vocal-driven style." The result is a room with a carpeted floor, a black metal ceiling treated with six-inch thick MBI Lapendary acoustical panels, and alternating bands of absorption and diffusion on the walls. "Reverb time ranges from about 1.0 to 1.3 seconds," Card says. "We have it tighter in the low end to account for the heavy sub-bass used for the progressive worship service."
From the church's side, responsibility for audio-visual systems to complement the new space fell to technical director Mike Gerrells. "I selected Meyer Sound for the PA," Gerrells says, "because it is the best thing out there. I spent four years on the road and used a lot of different systems to do concerts. Every time I used Meyer loudspeakers I was very satisfied."
Configuration of the new system was handled by Clark ProMedia design engineer Kevin Entrekin. "We used a combination of tools," Entrekin says, "but (Meyer Sound) MAPP Online acoustical prediction software was the most beneficial. It allowed us to get a picture during the design stage of what the sound system would actually recreate for us in the space. Having used it and then actually done the install and listened to the sound system, I can say that MAPP was extremely accurate."
Entrekin also found MAPP's multicolor plots to be very helpful in explaining to the client what kind of coverage they were going to be getting out of the system. "They can see that the color is even from one area to another, so they know that the sound is going to be even. It's provides a kind of comfort level for them."
Card adds that one of the areas for which MAPP was most helpful was in defining sub-bass coverage. "They wanted bass that really hits you in the chest," he says. "We used six 650-P high-powered subwoofers, and we had to try some fairly innovative techniques for placing them where they can't be seen and they don't block camera lines. We ended up defining essentially a horizontal line array that spans the front of the room and the two front walls, using cinderblock cavities under the stage. We could never have achieved that without MAPP. And Meyer really went the extra mile in helping us with feedback on our design."
The remainder of the system involves three flown clusters up front plus delays in the house. The left and right clusters are each based on a tight-packed pair of CQ-2 narrow coverage main loudspeakers, while the center cluster has three splayed CQ-2 cabinets. "The CQ-2s," Entrekin says, "gave us a low-profile box as well as the sonic richness that we required." Each of the three clusters has a UPJ-1P compact VariO loudspeaker mounted to the bottom for frontfill.
A total of eight UPA-2P compact narrow coverage loudspeakers were placed for delayed reinforcement, which Entrekin says was required because of the depth of the room. "We used a pair of tight-packed UPA-2Ps in four locations spaced evenly across the back of the room," he says. "These boxes gave us the SPL in the back while keeping the low profile and sonic crispness throughout the space."
The entire installation was handled in what Entrekin refers to as a "compressed time frame," making the self-powered design of the Meyer cabinets particularly handy. "We were given very little time to complete the final setup process," he says. "We literally got it plugged in and within a couple of hours were doing a rehearsal with a full band, and it was actually acceptable. With a traditional unpowered box and amplifier, there was no way we would have been able to do that."
Gerrells says Clark ProMedia did "a great job" with the installation and hookup. "I came in one day and everything was in place and ready to go. What really got me excited was that before we even tuned the room we turned on the speakers just to hear them and it sounded great. Even during tuning we didn't have to change much. They were just that good out of the box."
As for the difference between the new location and Cross Pointe's prior worship situation, Gerrells says, "It's like night and day. I used to have five or ten people come up after the service every Sunday to complain about something. Mostly they couldn't understand what the pastor was saying. Now most people say they are amazed at what they are hearing. It's like the pastor is sitting next to you, having a conversation with you. The intelligibility is incredible. And not only can they hear what's going on, they can feel it — not because it's loud but because it's very full and warm. It's changed the experience a lot, and we're very happy."